Education and Training Prove Key to CQ Roll Call's Strong Renewal Efforts

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More than once—in an actionable-idea-filled session last month at SIPA's Customer Onboarding and Retention event in Washington, D.C.— Kristina Dorsey, manager of client success for CQ Roll Call, talked about the importance of teaching.

"I read somewhere that the organizations that are the most successful at selling and retaining customers are the ones that teach them something," she said. But not why your product is great. It's more about how it applies to the customer's workflow.

"You have to be proactive and anticipate what a client wants even before they know they want it," she said. "It's about making sure that our clients are educated on our value proposition, and know that we're the only one doing this"—legislative tracking, advocacy, and news and analysis—as well as keeping up with what's going on with the market."

Dorsey gave her " Top 8" successful efforts towards renewals.

  1. Make in-person visits. "There is a lot to be said about in-person visits—it's one of the most overlooked things," she said. "I have about 300-400 clients that I touch daily and the number 1 thing I hear when a client is unhappy is, I never my met my CSN or my sales rep. 'He seemed to have a cool voice but I never got to know what he looks like.'" She related a story of visiting one client where she noticed a marathon medal on the wall. "Hey, did you run the Marine Corps [Marathon]?" So I truly believe that they stay with us not just for the products, but he feels that personal connection." (For more on in-person visits leading to new sales, read this recent post.)
  2. Employ regular communication. You want to stay near the top of their inbox, Dorsey said. Not only to be at the top of their inbox, but also to reach clients not using your software or tools. They had a situation where a Congressional committee added 130 amendments to an appropriations bill. "We immediately put together an email [that said], 'I bet you're looking for these.' We heard back, 'Do I have access to that? Hey I tried to click into that amendment you sent me. Can you send my log-in?'"
  3. Provide internal training. "I heard someone reiterate to make sure that people inside your organization are emphasizing and representing the organization how you want them to. If CQ Roll Call is marketing itself that we understand the government affairs process and we're here to solve your problems, then our training can't just focus on what our prospects want to do. They have to understand what our clients are trying to do. How is their success measured? What does their day look like?"
  4. Make standing appointments. For large clients—lobbying shops, law firms, even Congress—Dorsey said that they always can be too busy for you. They don't have time for you to come into their office. "How do you get those people? How do you catch them in your net?" Make standing appointments. "'I'm going to be at your office [on the morning of] the first Tuesday of every month for three hours, and I'm going to bring breakfast.' People are more apt to remember it if it's regularly scheduled, like college office hours."
  5. Educate your clients. This is incredibly important, Dorsey said. "What do people want to know about? First, how to be successful and second, figuring out what other people are doing." She gave an example where they were proactive and knew that clients would want to know more about what's going on in the states. So they hosted an in-person event on that topic and served breakfast—"Who's not going to come to that?" she asked. They could match a face to the name and learn about what their market is doing in states.

    "At the end we tied it into our market," she said. "They had no idea about using [our products] that way. 'We had no idea you offered that.' We look at it as a way to help people do their jobs better—with us. We want to be somebody people want to consult with, not just want to buy from." They also put on events on How to Put on a Hill Day and an overtime exemption rule that really went over well. Dorsey said they can tie these it with new product development.
  6. Provide handouts and takeaways. Dorsey wants to address the post-session feeling of clients who say, "I totally forgot how I do that when I left the building." "The handouts reiterate exactly what we showed them so they can quickly emulate what we did. Think of it as an instruction manual that you're leaving with them afterwards."
  7. Add personal touches. Dorsey said this may sound "corny and cheesy" but it works. "I realized pretty quickly that this goes a long way. She sends handwritten thank-you notes for high-dollar clients—something she learned from her mother. And she buys cupcakes. She sent them to one client after an in-person meeting, writing that, "we're thinking of you." "They still remember that during every renewal," she said. And from her recent wedding, she said that, "calligraphy on an invitation apparently means a lot. Personal things go a long way."
  8. Build a continuous feedback loop. Make clients feel they have impact on what you're creating, Dorsey said. She told of a time they had to overhaul the interface. "We had clients come into our office, give testimony to our product team. Any time they feel have a direct channel, not just to the CSM but to the entire team, is good. They become your own marketers. 'Yes CQ Roll Call cares about customer opinions.'"

Lastly she mentioned a new product called a Trump Tracker. It has drawn log-ins, forwards which lead to trials, and lots of conversation.

Members can view Dorsey's session here. (Kiplinger's Denise Elliott led off the session.) If you need help with your log-in, please email Nevena Jovanovic. To watch any of the great sessions that day, check the full site page

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Ronn Levine began his career as a reporter for The Washington Post and has won numerous writing and publications awards since. Most recently, he spent 12 years at the Newspaper Association of America covering a variety of topics before joining SIPA in 2009 and SIIA in 2013 as editorial director…